Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress Tuesday, and for five hours, senators who appeared to have halting grasp of the company’s intricacies questioned the Facebook CEO on topics ranging from Russia to artificial intelligence. Zuckerberg for the most part gave considered answers to their questions—except when it came to the specifics of how users can control their privacy.
That Zuckerberg would dodge uncomfortable questions is a disappointment, though maybe no surprise. But when it came to addressing how the company collects and handles data—and what tools it gives you to control that flow of information—Zuckerberg landed repeatedly on a common refrain: Users have complete control over how their data gets used. “This is the most important principle for Facebook: Every piece of content that you share on Facebook, you own and you have complete control over who sees it, and how you share it, and you can remove it at any time,” said Zuckerberg.
But in trying to present this as exculpatory, Zuckerberg this misses the point. Offering tools to someone doesn’t help at all if they’re hard to find, and even harder to understand.
Zuckerberg cited the “inline” controls that Facebook has gifted its users multiple times. What he’s referring to specifically seems to be the dropdown menu that you see before you post to Facebook, the one that says Who should see this?, and lets you whittle down your audience by friend groups, geography, or not at all.
Offering tools to someone doesn’t help at all if they’re hard to find, and even harder to understand.
Which, sure. That helps. But it’s also not what’s at issue here. The creeping concern around Facebook—and Google and other ad-driven platforms—isn’t whether former coworkers can see your current happy hour pics. It’s whether